film reel image

film reel image

Monday, September 30, 2013

Broken City 2013 * * * Stars

Director: Allen Hughes
Year: 2013
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars     Cole's Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones

Mark Wahlberg is gonna be a real busy guy this year. He's got four movies coming out and so far I've seen two of them. Although, I wasn't a fan of his April misfire entitled Pain & Gain (I just couldn't allow myself to be), I did enjoy his earlier release which was probably the first feature length movie to come out in 2013. Yes I'm writing about Broken City and yes it entertained me. It's not a great movie but it is a pretty good one. I feel bad though, I mean I knew right away that it was gonna be in and out of the multiplexes faster than a speeding bullet. What you have here is a crime drama that came out in January (strike one), carries an extremely generic title (strike two), and recycles elements from so many other similar films in its respected genre (strike three). Broken City kinda reminded me of a movie that surfaced about 5 years ago (2008's Pride and Glory). Together these two pictures emulate a sort of greatest hits compilation of cinema's version of police corruption and crime. By now, I think we've pretty much seen it all before as moviegoers. But hey, there are a lot worse things you could be doing with two hours to kill than viewing a flick with one past Oscar nominee (Mark Wahlberg) and one past Oscar winner (Russell Crowe). 

The story goes like this: Wahlberg plays N.Y.P.D. detective Billy Taggert.  He crosses the line by playing the dirty cop role (he commits a crime which I can't reveal, that would be a spoiler) and loses his job. Fast forward 7 years later and he is now moonlighting as a photographer/private eye who takes photos of people in I guess, small positions of power. He then catches them in the act of committing for example, adultery and gives this information to the related subjects who are paying for his services. On the verge of going bankrupt (business is slow), Taggert gets a sudden call from the mayor of New York City (Russell Crowe, with perfectly combed hair). Crowe's character (Nicholas Hostetler) proposition's Taggert, the opportunity to make some nice coin.  Taggert has to find out if Hostetler's wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is cheating on him. Better yet, he has to find out who the actual dude is that's involved (this is a juicy plot point I tell you). 

So there it is, the gist of Broken City. Like every other three star movie it has a few flaws here and there. One flaw is that it feels overly familiar. Originality is not its strong suit. In its defense though, it's not easy to make this type of film with original ideas, better yet cut it from original cloth. Every darn police TV show or film beat Broken City to the punch. The second flaw is what this movie tries to be. While I found it entertaining and anything but boring, I felt like I was watching an episode of N.Y.P.D. Blue mixed with a dreary daytime soap.  It's an interesting combo that could easily make a lot of other critics pick their jaw up off the floor. I didn't mind it though. What drew me in eventually, was the crackling scenes of dialogue between Wahlberg and Crowe's characters. They have some great chemistry between them and I hope someday they'll team up again (I won't tell you whether they become adversaries or not in this movie. That's up to you, the viewer, to find out). Along with Wahlberg and Crowe, (not to mention strong supporting work from Barry Pepper as Crowe's future re-election opponent) everyone else in the cast also does a pretty substantial job (sans Alona Tal who tries hard but looks out of place amongst the other Hollywood heavyweights).

In retrospect, this isn't the type of trashy potboiler that's gonna set the world on fire. It does have solid performances, it moves at a brisk pace, and it offers a couple of nifty twists and turns. Granted, it won't have a chance come awards season but I'm sure the people who worked on it know that. On the bright side, they can feel confident that the film was edited nice and tight. This is one of the main aspects that kept me involved throughout its entire running time. Whether you view it or not (and I hope you do), Broken City gets more than enough things right. I'm certain that when the movie ends it will beg you to keep this one notion in mind: if it ain't "broken," don't fix it. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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